The Antidote To Suffering

I stood outside the clubhouse leaning on my driver and watching the 4-ball in front of me tee off.

They were all good players, but the best by some way was Chris, a big strapping 19 year-old, built as they say in Derbyshire, like a brick shit house.

I watched him almost drive the green of the par 4 first hole and just laughed to myself knowing that I needed to nail two shots to make it that far.

All 4 men drove off and along with the 3 guys I was playing with we wandered onto the tee to get ready to follow them.

I can’t remember much about the round other than I probably sucked.

I know the 4-ball in front were soon a couple of holes in front of us and out of sight which is what tends to happen when you aren’t spending half your time in the rough looking for lost balls like we were.

John didn’t get as much time to spend with his boys as he’d ideally like. I say boys, they were more like young men now with one being 19 and the other 22.

Tonight they were off to a soccer game together and would stop for a beer after the game at their local pub.

It was a good game and they were all no doubt excited by another Rams win as the team pushed toward the top of the league.

I’d known Dave for a few years and I liked him and liked working alongside him.

He’d got married young, maybe about 20 if memory serves, but the recent split up after finding his wife was having an affair had hit him hard.

He certainly, and understandably, hadn’t been quite his normal self for the last few weeks and we spent a lot of time chatting about the crap life can throw at us.

We were getting ready to leave work on a Thursday night and I suggested we go for a beer the following night and he responded that he’d like that.

“Cool. We can set it up tomorrow” I said as I hopped into my car.

Chris collapsed on the 16th green shortly after he started bleeding profusely from his gums.

An ambulance was called for, but he was dead before he reached Chesterfield hospital, a mere 20 minutes away.

John didn’t get to share that pint with his boys as a head on collision with a tractor pulling out in front of them and a fast stretch of road killed all 3 instantaneously.

And I didn’t get that pint with Dave either. He committed suicide that night.

I didn’t really know Chris other than to nod and say hello, and I didn’t know the people in the car who were killed driving home from the same soccer game as I had just attended.

I did know Dave though and when I got that news I was rocked.

Unless you are very fortunate, I’m sure similar events have happened in your life. Maybe yours are even more personal and even more painful.

One of the many things that bind us all as Human Beings is the fact that we all experience suffering, it’s a human condition.

But there’s an antidote if we can remember to apply it.

Losing my dad was a big blow to me. We went to soccer games together, enjoyed the occasional pint and generally got on very well.

Even though he was 79, he was a fit 79 and still running his own business and looked closer to 65 than 80.

The day after he died I sat down with my 2 sisters and mum and we told stories about my dad, drank his wine and laughed our asses off.

The fact is I was grateful to have had him as a dad and whereas I could have focussed on the negative, I didn’t.

As such the suffering wasn’t nearly as bad as it could have been.

When my mum died I was grateful she didn’t have to suffer any longer as she had been very sick.

The self development industry seems to want to batter us over the head with gratitude and on occasions it irks me, because being made to feel gratitude for something you really aren’t happy with can sometimes suck.

However, it’s such a powerful antidote that to ignore it during times of suffering is akin to putting down our shield and sword just before walking on to the battle field.

Perhaps the family of the 3 men killed were able to be grateful it was instantaneous. That doesn’t come close to removing the intense pain they must have felt, but it may lessen it a tiny amount.

Maybe Chris’s parents were grateful that the leukemia that killed him was so rare and so rapid and that he didn’t suffer through weeks of unsuccessful chemotherapy.

Dave was an only child and I know his dad in particular took it very badly

But maybe, just maybe he’d have taken it slightly better if he’d have focussed on what a great kid he’d raised and how lucky he was to have had him around for so long.

I have never been through such a thing, and maybe you’re a parent and think I’m way off the mark, but I suspect I’m not.

Gratitude is the antidote to suffering.